What Does It Mean to Scan A Document

You may be new to some aspects of digital filing, archiving and converting files. Perhaps you just want some clarification on the scanning process, and why it is so necessary in our twenty-first century offices. In this piece we will try to keep things simple and clarify what it means to scan a document. Let’s get back to basics and take a look at what scanning really is.

Scanning explained

To get straight to the point about scanning, it is actually about making a copy of a document. The copy is in a different form and stored on a computer, but it is still just a copy. So when you scan a document or image, you are using a device like a desktop scanner, to create a digital copy made up of thousands of pixels.

The digital copy can then be saved, edited and shared via a range of options. Scanning is a way of converting something that is available in a hard copy to a digital format.

Pixels are essentially just numbers that the computers assign values to. Each tiny block of an image is a pixel, and each pixel is given a number that corresponds to a very specific color value. An image is essentially a giant mosaic, where each tile can be read by the computer as a number.

The process follows the same basic principles, whether you use a desktop scanner or a specialized large format scanning device. The scanner lights the image and records the data. This gets sent to the computer.

There is software on the side of the computer that converts and saves the image or document file. You can choose the resolution, or dpi which will determine the quality of the image (especially if you want to enlarge it) but will also increase the file size.

You can also choose if you want to scan a full color image, a grayscale image (which will be faster) or other lower resolution options. It will depend on the software you have available. There are usually options to help you decide on resolution, color and image type. You can choose if you are scanning a high quality color image (like a family photo) or a lower quality text file (like a report that needs to be emailed quickly).

Why scan something?

The next question that you might have about scanning is why you would need to do it in the first place. There can be several reasons, depending on the needs of the person scanning the document or image. Some businesses need to scan older documents to save on storage space. You might need so scan certain specific documents to archive the information and have a backup.

For designers or artists, scanning images is a way to get certain visual information in a digital format, so they can edit, manipulate and redesign it for different uses. You could scan photographs of your family and store them online as personal backup, or to share them with someone on the other side of the globe.

Some businesses may also have older documents, blueprints and so on, that they need to be able to reference within software like CAD, Photoshop or other editing solutions and the best way to get this information in a compatible format is to scan it.

If you are a student, you could scan pages from an old journal article, or archival work or even a textbook. You can even scan it with your phone, so you have it close at hand, can share it with friends and collaborate more easily.

Types of scanners

Just as there are different reasons to scan documents or images, there are different ways of doing so. The reason for having a digital copy and what you intend to do with the file after you have scanned the document also determines what type of scanner you will need.

Your budget, the types of things you will scan and the quality you require will also help to determine what scanner you should buy. Perhaps you won’t need to buy a scanner, you could get better value for money from a company that offers bulk, or large scale scanning. Some shops can help you to scan just one or two pages as well.

You could buy a desktop scanner or an integrated scanner, copier and printer. There are also larger scanners with integrated document feeders so you can scan several pages quickly. These types of scanners can be integrated with traditional copiers and work well for larger offices where you need to scan, print, copy and fax quickly and often.

If you work with blueprints, maps or posters a large format scanner can be an investment worth considering. These systems are also often integrated with plotters and have become an essential part of architects’, engineers’ and graphic designers’ offices.

There are also smaller hand held scanners available (not just apps on your smart phone). These little scanners can be useful if you need so scan specific sections of a document. They are can be used when you need to record data from archival sources, like old newspapers for example. The pages might be too fragile to feed through a large format scanners, so you become the document feeder, and scan the sections you need.

The great thing is that there are endless solutions when it comes to scanning documents, images or even objects.

To conclude

In this piece we looked at the basics of scanning. What is scanning exactly and why you would need to convert hard copy files to digital files like a pdf or a jpg.

Hopefully we have helped you with some of the questions you may have had related to scanning, different types of scanners and their uses. Now you can go and buy your first scanner and start to save all the images and documents you want. Perhaps you will turn into a digital artists before you know it.

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